Military forces live and die by their weapons, but those aren’t the only tools that matter in a battle. There are all sorts of gadgets and gizmos that can make troops safer and more lethal. Here are 7 of the best:
1. Backpack that can listen to enemy communications
The Wolfhound is an electronic warfare device that allows troops to both locate where radio operators are at and listen in on enemy communications. Operators who can speak the enemy’s language carry the backpacks on patrols and interpret what is said for ground commanders. If no soldiers who can speak the local language are available, the system can still record signals so that they can be analyzed later.
2. Virtual reality headsets
The Norwegian Army currently has tanks equipped with four spherical cameras an Occulus Rift headset that allows tankers to “see” the battlefield through the tank’s armor like it isn’t there. The Norwegian Army still wants to improve the system though, hoping to make it more rugged and responsive. While other apparatuses like the F-35 helmet have given this capability to some U.S. forces, the Occulus Rift is relatively free at only $600 compared to the F-35 helmet’s $600,000 price tag.
Breaching an enemy door can be one of the most dangerous parts of a clearing operation, but the Simon Grenade-Rifle-Entry-Munition makes it safer and easier. Riflemen fit the GREM on the end of their barrel and fire a round. The round sets off the GREM which launches 50-100 feet to explode just outside the door. The blast shatters the door and leaves an opening for troops to assault through.
5. Tablet and app for close-air support
DARPA’s Persistent Close Air Support program was designed to allow troops to quickly call in close air support missions and get rounds or bombs on target within six minutes. The final program uses an off-the-shelf Android tablet with special software installed. Ground troops enter the requested mission into the tablet app and it is beamed to a tablet in an aircraft. The pilot receives all the information and conducts the mission accordingly.
You’ve been trained to recognize threats. You can spot an IED, read an unruly crowd, identify enemy armor from klicks away, and you know a predatory car loan when you see one. But what about those threats that don’t keep you up at night? What about the threats you can’t see?
The operational tempo of the last two decades has exposed military personnel to a myriad of dangers on and off the battlefield. While the conducting of combat operations poses the most obvious direct threat to our service members’ health, the existence of more discreet threats should not be overlooked. Respiratory health risks exist, both on the battlefield and in training environments, and mitigation should be prioritized to ensure both the health and safety of our service members and the combat effectiveness of our nation’s armed forces.
Fortunately, unseen doesn’t mean unidentified. Here are a few examples of the most pervasive invisible threats:
Lead dust exposure
Exposure to lead is an inevitable byproduct of firearms training. When a weapon is fired, small amounts of lead particles are discharged into the air, posing a risk to shooters and weapons instructors alike. These particles are expelled through the ejection port on the firearm as the spent casing is ejected, as well as from the muzzle as the bullet leaves the barrel. Although invisible to the naked eye, these particles can be inhaled and accumulate on skin and clothing.
Because of the occupational necessity of range training time for military, law enforcement and security personnel, this population may be at risk for higher BLL (Blood Lead Levels). Lead is a heavy metal that has long been associated with a variety of health risks ranging from heart and kidney disease to reduced fertility, memory loss and cancer. Children tend to be more susceptible to lead poisoning and may be exposed second-hand through interaction with personnel in contaminated uniforms. These risks can be mitigated by eliminating food and drink at firing ranges, promptly changing clothes after a range session, and of course, proper ventilation at shooting ranges and facilities.
The threats posed by lead dust exposure are very real, and the Department of Defense has taken notice. As of April 2017, DoD made their lead exposure levels more restrictive than the OSHA standard, in an effort to limit the prolonged exposure of personnel. The Army has also published guidance to their personnel as to ways to reduce the risks to themselves and their families.
Burn pits have been used extensively in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste products, and their use has generated a lot of media attention over the last several years, and with good reason. Thousands of veterans were likely exposed to the harmful fumes caused by the burning of waste products, food scraps, trash, tires, plastics, batteries, and a whole host of other items. Since the Veterans Administration established the voluntary burn pit registry to keep track of burn pit exposure, more than 180,000 veterans have registered. While there are several potential causes of respiratory health problems while deployed, ranging from sandstorms to exposure to diesel exhaust, burn pits are suspected of causing a variety of problems. Some of these include asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart conditions, leukemia and lung cancer.
While less of a concern today, asbestos was a commonly used material for a variety of construction-related purposes from the 1930s to the 1970s. Although the practice of using asbestos ended in the 1970s and the military has made a concerted effort to limit personnel to its exposure, the material remained in buildings for the following decades. The material was used as insulation in walls, floors and pipes, and even in aircraft and vehicle brakes and gaskets. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs, notably the lungs and chest wall. There are many MOS’ that are at higher risk of asbestos exposure to include carpenters, pipefitters, aircraft mechanics, welders, electrician’s mates, and Seabees. For more information regarding asbestos exposure and the benefits available to you, please visit https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/
Service in the military is undoubtedly an honorable profession that comes with inherent hazards to both health and safety. Service members should take control of their safety when it is possible to avoid dangers that are both seen and unseen.
Companies like O2 Tactical are at the forefront in addressing these threats. The company, which is comprised of engineers, designers, veterans and industry experts, has developed the TR2 Tactical Respirator II respiratory system with the operator in mind.
The high energy laser mounted on the back can take out one enemy drone at a time, but in quick succession. Its sister is a microwave system that can take down multiple drones at once.
Raytheon’s “advanced high power microwave and mobile high energy laser systems” are really two programs that work together to defeat entire drone swarms.
The High Energy Laser is super mobile and can even be mounted on all-terrain vehicles like the Polaris MRZR in use by special operators and airborne units, as well as other forces, in the Army. Only one high-energy laser can engage a drone at a time, but it can do so quickly. In a 2018 test, the laser burned out 12 drones as they attempted to maneuver.
But the more powerful, less mobile microwave system took out almost three times as many, 33, in the same test. The High Power Microwaves disrupt the drones’ guidance systems, and it can attack entire swarms at once. In the Army test in 2018, it was downing two or three at a time while the laser was smoking ’em one at a time.
A press release from that demonstration promises, “High power microwave operators can focus the beam to target and instantly defeat drone swarms. With a consistent power supply, an HPM system can provide virtually unlimited protection.”
As America faces a possible war with Iran, the ability to defeat drone swarms will come into sharp focus. Iran has famously adopted a tactic of attempting to overwhelm American defensive measures with dozens or hundreds of boats or drones. Since America has historically spent thousands or millions of dollars per intercept, a strategy of using cheap drones or boats en masse could overwhelm American logistics quickly.
A Stryker with the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser equipped takes part in a test at Fort Sill.
But if Raytheon’s new toys work as advertised, it shifts the cost back to the aggressor. With a steady power source, America could ravage an attacker’s fleet of vehicles for the cost of a few dozen gallons of diesel for the generators.
But best of all is if current equipment like the Patriots and future options like microwaves and lasers can deter conflict entirely. Some American intelligence has leaked that says the current tensions with Iran can be credited to the regime trying to provoke an American attack or military overreaction that would restore support in Iran for the regime, essentially buying it years or decades more in control.
What’s needed are options that can protect American troops without being offensive threats to regimes. And lasers and microwaves fit that bill nicely. It remains to be seen if the branches will determine Raytheon’s offering are the best, though. The Army is working in-house on the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser 2.0, a Stryker-mounted weapon similar to Raytheon’s HEL. And plenty of companies are working to beat Raytheon in the counter drone space.
The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.
During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.
According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.
Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.
Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.
Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.
The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.
The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.
If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.
The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.
All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.
After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.
By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.
Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.
As the tech and information industries boomed in the 2010s, the decade was also rocked by scandals across both industries.
Tech companies are increasingly at the center of political and social issues in the US and across the globe, and the past 10 years saw a wave of abuses of power, failed business ventures, and disastrous gadget rollouts.
Facebook, Apple, and Google — some of the most powerful tech companies in existence — were the most frequent sites of scandal. However, startups and fringe organizations saw their share of infamy over the past ten years as well. And then there were the NSA spying revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Here are the biggest tech scandals from 2010 to the present.
2010: Over a dozen workers commit suicide after working under brutal conditions at a Chinese factory making iPhones, iPads, and HP computers
At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories in Shenzen, China died by suicide over the course of 2010. Foxconn, which manufactures gadgets for clients including Apple, Nintendo, and HP, reportedly expected workers to put in extreme overtime shifts under dismal working conditions and with cruel management who would dock workers’ pay for minor infractions, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company reportedly installed safety nets to catch workers who jumped from upper stories and asked workers to sign a contract agreeing not to kill themselves.
Apple, HP, and other Foxconn clients said they would pressure Foxconn to improve its working conditions in the wake of the suicides. China also put new laws in place in 2012 limiting workers’ overtime hours.
2013: Edward Snowden releases confidential documents showing the NSA has secretly had access to Google and Yahoo servers
In one of the most famous whistleblower complaints in US history, former contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had been spying on people’s Google and Yahoo accounts, retaining text, audio, and video at will without users’ knowledge.
Both Google and Yahoo expressed surprise at the findings, stating that they had not granted the government access to their servers. However, Google said in a statement that the company had “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping.” Snowden still faces charges of violating the Espionage Act — he is living in Moscow, where he has been granted asylum status.
2015: Volkswagen admits to cheating on emissions tests to make its cars seem more eco-friendly than they are
The Environmental Protection Agency discovered that Volkswagen was using “defeat devices” on its cars that detected when they were being tested for emissions and delivered artificial results to make them seem more environmentally friendly. Volkswagen confirmed the allegation, saying that 11 million of its cars were fitted with defeat devices.
The German car maker agreed to pay .3 billion in fines to the US and spend more than billion to address claims from regulators and car owners. Six Volkswagen executives faced criminal charges for their alleged involvement in the scheme.
2016: Apple ordered to pay €13 billion in EU back taxes after receiving tax breaks from Ireland that were ruled illegal
For more than a decade, Apple funneled its European operations through Ireland, capitalizing on massive tax breaks the small country offered it. In 2013, the European Union concluded a three-year investigation into the tax rates and ruled that those breaks were illegal, given that they only applied to Apple. The EU ordered Apple to pay the equivalent of .5 billion back to Ireland. Apple decried the decision, saying it would rethink its future European business ventures as a result.
Elizabeth Holmes, the chief executive officer and founder of Theranos.
2016: Theranos shutters its labs and faces a federal investigation over dubious claims about its blood-testing technology
One of the most notorious startup launches of the past decade, Theranos and its mercurial leader Elizabeth Holmes fell from grace after the company proved unable to fulfill its promises that it could run blood tests on a single drop of blood. Holmes is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation and faces charges of criminal fraud.
Galaxy Note 7 security bulletin.
2016: Samsung recalls Galaxy Note 7s and shuts down production of the phones after several phones explode while charging
Samsung initiated a global recall of Galaxy Note 7 phones in early September 2016 after several models caught on fire, stating that it would begin shipping updated models that were safe. However, reports surfaced that multiple replacement phones were also catching on fire while charging, leading the South Korean company to halt production on the Galaxy Note 7 entirely.
(US House Intelligence Committee)
2017: Facebook says fake accounts linked to Russia bought thousands of ads during US election
Accounts that were “likely operated out of Russia” spent roughly 0,000 in Facebook ads beginning in June 2015 with the aim of influencing the 2016 presidential election, Facebook disclosed in September 2017. Before that announcement, Facebook had repeatedly insisted that it had no reason to believe that Russian actors bought ads in connection with the election. Facebook pledged that going forward it would take action to thwart attempted foreign-funded campaigns to influence US elections.
2017: A Google engineer circulates a manifesto criticizing the company’s attempts to increase gender and racial diversity
Google employees were outraged after James Damore, a Google engineer, circulated an anti-diversity manifesto within the company that criticized efforts to increase the number of women and minorities working there. “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” he wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Gizmodo. The memo came during a time of increasing turbulence inside Google, with staffers raising concerns over company culture. Damore ultimately left the company.
2018: Google faces an internal reckoning after reports surface of sexual misconduct across the company, including prominent executive Andy Rubin
Thousands of employees walked out of Google offices in late 2018 after reports surfaced of sexual misconduct by high-ranking company officials. The New York Times reported that Google protected Andy Rubin, one of the creators of Android, while women who reported sexual misconduct internally said they were treated unfairly by Google’s forced arbitration policies. Rubin reportedly received tens of millions of dollars as part of his exit package, even after the company deemed the reports of misconduct against him credible. Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged shortcomings at the time and pledged to “turn these ideas into action.”
2018: UN investigators blame Facebook for providing a platform for hate speech in connection with the Myanmar genocide of Rohingya Muslims
A UN investigator said that Facebook played a “determining role” in Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya Muslims, stating that hate speech and plans to organize killings flourished on the platform.
“It was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities,” the investigator said.
Facebook ultimately acknowledged that the platform enabled violence and apologized for not doing more to stop it.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
2018: Facebook admits that Cambridge Analytica, a controversial data-analysis firm linked to the Trump campaign, improperly obtained and mishandled millions of users’ data
Following a bombshell investigation by The Guardian, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, a firm who improperly obtained and used the data of millions of users to serve pro-Trump ads in advance of the 2016 election. The Trump campaign reportedly paid Cambridge Analytica millions of dollars for its services, which violated Facebook’s advertising partner terms but happened under the social media giant’s watch.
2018: Following widespread protests from its employees, Google agrees not to renew a secretive contract to help the Pentagon build AI for drones
Google quietly established a partnership with the Pentagon on a fast-moving project to develop AI software for analyzing and assisting in drone strikes — a move that many at the company didn’t know about, and that drew widespread protests after it was first reported publicly by Gizmodo. After backlash, the company agreed not to renew the Pentagon contract. However, an unnamed company that partnered with the Pentagon on the same project still used an “off-the-shelf Google Cloud platform,” the Intercept reported.
2019: Messages show top Boeing officials knew about “egregious” problems with the 737 Max years before 2 deadly crashes
At least two years before two deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes, a top Boeing pilot was warned of “egregious” problems with the planes, messages obtained by The New York Times revealed. The crashes, which took place in October 2018 and March 2019, killed 346 people. After the second crash, all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded, and Boeing’s handling of the incident is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation.
2019: Concerns with WeWork’s business model and management cause a failed IPO attempt, an ousted CEO, and a tanked valuation
In one disastrous month, WeWork saw its valuation drop to billion from billion, removed Adam Neumann as CEO, and cancelled its once-hyped initial public offering after investors and media raised serious questions with the company’s financials and Neumann’s eccentric managerial style. The WeWork saga is still unfolding, but the company is expected to lay off up to a quarter of its current staff in the coming months as it aims to stabilize a path to profitability.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s no surprise that psychotic despots and drug lords who came to power through violence and intimidation would be fascinated with gold-plated and diamond-encrusted weapons. The most well-known collector was Saddam Hussein.
After his fall, his weapons seemed to be scattered in every direction. Exactly how many weapons were in Saddam’s arsenal is not public knowledge, so it’s unclear how many have just “fallen off the books” throughout the years. The ones that have been accounted for, however, are often placed in museums and presidential libraries around the world as historical artifacts.
One of his most famous golden weapons was the golden Tabuk, an Iraqi variant of the AK-47. Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division discovered it near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The weapon was given as an official “thank you” to the Australian troops that helped them in the area. The weapon traded hands a few times before Australia’s Deputy Chief of Army, Major General John Cantwell, accepted it and placed it in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in 2007.
(Australian War Memorial)
You might wonder why more weapons weren’t taken as trophies by troops in Iraq. Well, having weapons that are not cleared and are without their paperwork properly done breaks countless UCMJ, Interpol, UN, and Geneva Convention laws. Getting the proper rights to take home war trophies may be a headache, but it’s not impossible. This hasn’t stopped idiots from becoming war criminals in pursuit of riches, though.
In 2014, two men from New Jersey were caught in a sting by the FBI trying to sell over $1 million worth of Hussein-family weapons. Later that same year, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Miller had his conviction overturned after being framed and sentenced for smuggling home a chrome-plated AK variant in 2005. As it turns out, another Marine had planted the weapon on him after Miller threatened to expose his affair. Nonetheless, he was still given a bad conduct discharge after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.
(Hemet Police Department)
But at least two of Saddam’s weapons have been known to make their way to auction legally. The M77 rifle that Saddam held during a 2000 military parade was given to an unnamed agent after 29 years of service to the CIA. Although it wasn’t flashy like the rest of Saddam’s armory, it still put up and sold at auction for $48,875.
The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.
The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.
The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.
Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.
“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”
The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.
The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.
“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”
The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.
“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.
“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”
MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.
“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”
In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.
“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.
Disruptions to Global Positioning System signals have been reported in northern Norway and Finland in November 2018, overlapping with the final days of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, a massive military exercise that has drawn Russia’s ire.
A press officer for Widerøe, a Norway-based airline operating in the Nordics, told The Barents Observer at the beginning of November 2018 that pilots reported the loss of GPS while flying into airports in the northern Norwegian region of Finnmark, near the Russian border, though the officer stressed that pilots had alternative systems and there were no safety risks.
Norway’s aviation authority, Avinor, issued a notice to airmen of irregular navigation signals in airspace over eastern Finnmark between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7, 2018, according to The Observer.
The director of Norway’s civil aviation authority told The Observer that organization was aware of disturbances to GPS signals in that region of the country but there is always notice given about planned jamming.
Finnish military personnel in formation at the Älvdalen training grounds in Sweden, Oct. 27, 2018.
“It is difficult to say what the reasons could be, but there are reasons to believe it could be related to military exercise activities outside Norway’s [borders],” the director said.
Aviation authorities in Finland issued similar notices in early November 2018, warning air traffic of disruptions to GPS signals over the northern region of Lapland, which borders Finnmark.
A notice to airmen from Air Navigation Services Finland warned of such issues between midday Nov. 6 and midnight on Nov. 7, 2018.
ANS Finland’s operational director told Finnish news outlet Yle that the information had come from the Finnish Defense Forces but did not identify the source of the interference. “For safety reasons, we issued it for an expansive enough area so that pilots could be prepared not to rely solely on a GPS,” the operational director said.
Canadian army sappers await attack after constructing makeshift barricades near Alvdal in central Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture, Nov. 4, 2018.
(NATO photo by Rob Kunzing)
The cause for the disruptions to GPS signals is not immediately clear, but the reports came during the final days of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which involved some 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft operating in Norway, in airspace over the Nordic countries, and in the waters of the Norwegian and Baltic seas.
All 29 NATO members took part, including Norway. Also participating were Sweden and Finland, which are not NATO members but work closely with the alliance. Moscow has in the past warned them against joining NATO.
While NATO stressed that Trident Juncture was strictly a defensive exercise — simulating a response to an attack on an alliance member — Russian officials saw it as hostile, calling the drills “anti-Russia.”
Much of the exercise took place in southern and central Norway, but fighter jets and other military aircraft used airports in northern Norway and Finland. (US Marines stationed in Norway also plan to move closer to that country’s border with Russia.)
Russian armored vehicles participating in Zapad 2017 exercises.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
GPS disruptions related to military activity have been reported in the Nordics before.
Norwegian intelligence services said in October 2017 that electronic disturbances — including jamming of GPS signals of flights in the northern part of the country — in September 2017 were suspected of coming from Russia while that country was carrying out its Zapad 2017 military exercise.
Reports of similar outages were reported around the same time in western Latvia, a Baltic state that borders Russia.
Electronic warfare appeared to be a major component of Zapad 2017, with the Russian military targeting its own troops to practice their responses to it. “The amount of jamming of their own troops surprised me,” the chief of Estonia’s military intelligence said in November that year.
Norwegian and Latvian officials both said the jamming may not have been directed at their countries specifically. Latvia’s foreign minister said Sweden’s Öland Island, across the Baltic Sea from Latvia, may have been the target.
Ships take part in a photo exercise in the Norwegian Sea as part of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, Nov. 7, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)
At the end of 2017, Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told media that he was not surprised that Russian jamming activity had affected Norway.
“It was a large military exercise by a big neighbor and it disrupted civilian activities including air traffic, shipping, and fishing,” he said, referring to Zapad 2017-related disturbances, adding that Norway was prepared for it.
Similar disruptions were detected in Norway near the Russian border in 2018. Norwegian authorities said the interference was related to Russian military activity in the area and that they had requested Russia take steps to ensure Norwegian territory was not adversely affected.
Russia has invested heavily in electronic-warfare capabilities and is believed to have equipment that can affect GPS over a broad area. Northern Norway and Finland are adjacent to Russia’s Kola Peninsula, which is home to Russia’s Northern Fleet — its submarine-based nuclear forces — and other Russian military installations.
“If your offensive military capabilities rely on GPS, guess what the adversary will try to do?” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said in response to the latest reports of GPS interference in Finland.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Today, Bell is a company known for its UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters, but Bell was once much more than a helicopter company. The corporation built front-line fighters during World War II and was also responsible for making America’s first jet fighter.
The P-59 Airacomet was never much more than a flying testbed. It had an armament that consisted of three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a single 37mm cannon — the latter being a common feature in Bell’s primary propeller-driven fighters, the P-39 Airacobra and the P-63 Kingcobra. The P-59 was also able to haul a fair load for air-to-ground ass-kicking, in the form of either two 1,000-pound bombs or eight 60-pound rockets.
The P-59, however, would make its greatest impact without ever firing a shot at the enemy.
By the early 1940s, both the Germans and the British were pursuing jet technology, having flown experimental jets before. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, General Henry Arnold saw England’s E-28/39 jet in 1941 and asked if the Americans could use the then-groundbreaking technology. The British gladly handed it over, and General Electric was given the task of building the engine.
While Bell is known for its helicopters today, during World War II, they built fighters.
Bell, which was located next to GE’s jet engine plant, then got the contract to build the jet fighter around the new engine. The process was kept very secret — a “black project.” The project was dubbed XP-59, a designation recycled from an older Bell design for a propeller-driven fighter that had a “pusher” arrangement. That design was modified to carry two J31 turbojet engines.
In addition to the three .50-caliber machine guns and the 37mm cannon, the Airacomet carried eight 60-pound rockets or two 1,000-pound bombs.
The Airacomet never made it to the front lines. Despite being technologically advanced, it just didn’t have the performance needed to join the fight. The two jets were heavy and while it had a top speed of 413 miles per hour, its range was very short. On internal fuel alone, the P-59 only could go 240 miles. External tanks more than doubled its range (carrying it up to 520 miles), but a P-51 Mustang could go as far as 2,300 miles.
The pilots who flew the P-59 didn’t see combat, but did learn lessons that paid off for pilots of more advanced jets down the road.
The P-59, despite never seeing combat, was very valuable for the United States. It taught pilots how to fly jets — and this experience that would pay off big time when more practical aircraft emerged for the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Learn more about this jet-powered pioneer the video below!
There was only one foreign customer for the advanced F-14 Tomcat fighter during its heyday: Iran. The Shah chose to buy 80 Tomcats instead of the F-15 Eagle – and it was a good investment. Even after Imperial Iran gave way to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian Air Force was still stacked with some of the best Tomcat pilots in the world.
And the U.S. doesn’t want any of them in the air again ever.
Iran is the United States’ ex-girlfriend that we just can’t stop thinking about. After the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. could just not leave Iran alone. A major sticking point for the United States was that our ex still had 30 of our best fighter aircraft, and they were using it to great effect against our new boo, Iraq, in the Iran-Iraq War. The Iranian Air Force was so skilled in the Iran-Iraq War that a lone tomcat could clear the skies of enemy aircraft without firing a shot. Many of the successful downings of Tomcats were at the hands of ground-based SAM batteries… Iranian SAM batteries.
Watching Iranian Tomcats fly is like watching your ex wearing the ring you bought her that she won’t give back.
But the United States eventually gets better stuff, no matter how iconic Top Gun is. Since the Tomcat, we’ve had the major advances in fighter technology that led us to develop the F-22 and F-35 fighters, technology so amazing it might seem like magic to some. So it made sense to retire our fleet of F-14s in 2007, given that we had an air superiority fighter that had the radar cross-section of a bumblebee and could take out enemy planes before it could physically see them. When Iran got wind of its retirement, you could practically hear the CEO of Northrop Grumman’s tummy growling at the idea of parts sales.
But nope. This was 2007 and Iran was still firmly placed in President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” along with North Korea. The idea of selling Iran rare F-14 parts, so it didn’t have to cannibalize its own F-14 inventory was preposterous. It was this concern that led the Pentagon to shred every last leftover F-14 Tomcat.
Kinda like this, except with millions of dollars worth of metal and avionics.
Did the United States have to take a million plane and reduce it to scrap metal just so Iran couldn’t repair its aging fleet? No, according to many national security experts, it did not. They said the move was more symbolic than practical. F-14 parts were considered sensitive equipment just for this reason, so the U.S. ended all parts sales to anyone, not just Iran, for fear that Iran might get them eventually. But that doesn’t matter, there isn’t much Iran could do with their F-14s if they were airworthy.
“Those planes as they age are maybe the equivalent of Chevrolets in Cuba. They become relics of a past era,” said Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the State Department in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “Even if they can put them in the air, they are going to face more advanced weapons systems.”
Goose is rolling around in his grave.
The decision to destroy all the surplus Tomcats was the defense equivalent of taking the house and the car despite not needing or wanting either – a purely spiteful move that makes Tomcat fans wish they would have just donated to museums.
Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is a legend — and deservedly so, seeing as he was America’s top sniper of all time. But the United States is not the only country in the world to have had a great sniper. Russia has its legends as well, like sharpshooter Vasily Zaytsev.
We know a lot about the guns Chris Kyle used to leave his mark, but what type of rifle did Russia’s deadeye use? The answer is likely to be a rifle that was around for over a decade when Kyle was born in 1974. That rifle is the SVD Dragunov, which, over the years, has seen a lot of action — from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror.
The Dragunov fires the 7.62x54mmR cartridge, the same cartridge used by the PKM machine gun and the classic Mosin-Nagant rifle. The Russians had a lot of those rounds hanging around – and decided to put them to good use.
The SVD has been upgraded over the years. This one has a folding stock. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Michal Maňas)
It is a semi-automatic system – giving the user a chance to make a quick follow-up shot. It comes with a 24.4-inch barrel, weighs just under ten pounds, takes detachable magazines (usually with 10 rounds), and is equipped with a PSO-1 optical sight. Now, don’t look down on it for being a semi-auto — the U.S. Army has proved that a semi-automatic sniper rifle can do serious work —America’s top sniper in Vietnam, Adelbert Waldron, used the Army’s M21 sniper rifle, an M14 equipped with a scope, to tally 109 confirmed kills.
The Dragunov has been widely exported. China made their own version, called the Type 79, and later developed an improved variant, which they call the Type 85. As you might expect, this means American personnel have faced it in combat. The rifle is still serving in Russia and newer variants have emerged, including some chambered for more powerful rounds.
Since the Dragunov is semi-automatic, that means it’s also seen export to the United States for private owners. One model, the Tigr, was chambered not only in 7.62x54mmR, but also had options for using the 9.3x64mm and .308 Winchester (the same round used by the M14 rifle and M40 sniper rifle, among other systems).
This dependable rifle is likely not going away anytime soon!
One side effect of the end of World War II was that the United States Navy was left with a lot of extra ships lying around. In fact, the Americans found themselves with so many extra hulls, they couldn’t even give some away. Decades later, that inability to offload ships worked in our nation’s favor — especially during the Vietnam War. Some of these old ships ended up learning new tricks, like the USS Albemarle (AV 5).
During World War II, USS Albemarle served as a seaplane tender, mostly with the Atlantic Fleet. She undertook a variety of missions in the 1950s and was slated to handle the P6M Martin Seamaster flying boat when it was introduced into service. Unfortunately, the P6M never saw the light of day and, in 1962, USS Albemarle was stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels.
USS Albemarle in World War II, where she mostly served with the Atlantic Fleet.
Two years later, however, she was re-instated — but under a new name, USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH 1). The military was facing a big problem and the former-USS Albemarle was the solution. The Vietnam War saw the first wide-scale use of helicopters in just about every facet of combat. Some served as gunships while others hauled troops. Some evacuated the wounded and others delivered supplies. Many them, however, got shot up in the process and needed repairs.
America had over 12,000 helicopters in Vietnam. With so many helicopters, transporting the damaged ones back to the United States for repairs would’ve been a logistical nightmare. So, instead of bringing helicopters to the repair facility, America brought the repair facility to the helicopters, in the form of USNS Corpus Christi Bay.
After two years of work, USS Albemarle (AV 5) became USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH 1), a floating helicopter repair shop.
From 1966 to the end of the Vietnam War, USNS Corpus Christi Bay served as a floating repair depot for helicopters. Damaged choppers were brought in by barge, where they were fixed and returned to the front lines. USNS Corpus Christi Bay was again stricken in 1974 and scrapped, but she had served America honorably in two wars.
Learn more about her Vietnam-era service in the video below.